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The Mississippi River's water level is dropping again and barge industry trade groups warn that river commerce could essentially come to a halt as early as next week in an area south of St. Louis.
The Coast Guard remains confident that the nation's largest waterway will remain open despite the worst drought in decades. But officials with the American Waterways Operators and Waterways Council Inc. said Thursday that even if the river is open, further limits on barges will halt commercial traffic.
Mike Petersen, of the Army Corps of Engineers, says ice on the northern Mississippi River is reducing the flow more than expected. The river level is now expected to get to 3 feet at Thebes, Ill., on Jan. 6, when new limits on barges could go into place.